Giorgio Agamben’s earliest encounter with Gershom Scholem concerns an essay from 1972 entitled ‘Walter Benjamin and his Angel’,1 Scholem’s first attempt to provide a definitive account of Benjamin’s legacy. At its centre was a short text entitled ‘Agesilaus Santander’, which Benjamin composed on 12 and 13 August 1933 as a gift for the Dutch painter Anna Maria Blaupot ten Cate. In the text, the narrator is first given a ‘secret’ Jewish name, which is then revealed to contain an image of the ‘New Angel’ as well as a ‘female’ and ‘male’ form. Before naming himself as such, the ‘new angel’ presents himself as one of a host of angels that God creates at every given moment, whose only task, according to the Kabbalah, is to sing God’s praises at His throne before returning to the void. By sending his ‘feminine aspect’ to the masculine one, however, the angel has only strengthened the narrator’s ‘ability to wait’; even when face to face with the woman he awaits he does not fall upon her because ‘he wants happiness: […] the conflict in which the rapture of that which happens just once [des Einmaligen], the new, the as-yet-unlived is combined with the bliss of experiencing something once more [des Nocheinmal], of possessing once again, of having lived’. Thus, the narrator continues, ‘he has nothing new to hope for on any road other than the road home’ to the future whence he came, where the as-yet-unlived will have been lived.
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